Golf weekend at Celtic manor

It felt like just the other day we were all watching Europe regain the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor (maybe the wet ground conditions had something to do it) but it was great to be back, and this time playing some golf!

This past weekend Gary, Alex, myself and a mate went down for a golf break, where we had tried to organise a round on the Twenty Ten Ryder Cup course, but as to be expected, it was full, so we were booked in for a round on the Monty and the Roman Road courses……(A heavy fog would have made it impossible to play the Twenty Ten, so in a way it was a blessing).

The standard of golf was pretty poor, so the less said about it the better (a ‘slight’ over indulgence may have played some part in that). Nevertheless, there were numerous highlights, namely:

1. Gary attempting his ski impression down the 3rd on the Monty…….and ending up on his rear!
2. Me snapping my driver……whilst not even using it, and
3. Alex adamantly refusing to remove his coat and shoes for bed.

A memorable and enjoyable weekend, but unfortunately not too many good golf ones!!

Dave snapping his driver……whilst not even using it?

Golf in 2010

Another golfing summer has passed by and yet again glorious golf opportunities have not been made the most of. From the outside, people may assume that as a golf design company, we get countless rounds of free golf, play four times a week and all play off single figure handicaps…….that is not, and never will be the case.

My main excuse for not playing as much golf as I would like are weekends packed with cricket (that may be changing soon) however, I have been able to play a couple of glorious courses which I would strongly recommend.

The first one is the famous Portuguese course, Praia del Rey. A links course set on the cliff tops overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the course has two very distinctive nine hole loops. The inland front nine predominantly meanders through the mature pine forest, while the back nine makes the most of the fantastic ocean views with many holes framed by some mighty dunes. The wife and I went there for our summer vacation and thoroughly enjoyed the entire resort……..great weather, accommodation and golf. I was only able to get in one round at Praia but it was definitely worth it!

Praia del Rey

The second great course played this summer was this past weekend at The Addington, just outside Croydon in Surrey. Designed in 1912 by John Abercromby, the heathland course is a masterpiece of inland golf. Some say that the opening six holes are a ‘taster’ for what is to come, but nothing can prepare you for the fantastic rollercoaster ride that you are taken on from holes seven to seventeen. Woods, heather, topography, great green sites, ravines, bridges – The Addington really does have it all.

The Addington

However, even if I did make more of the potential golf opportunities, the highlight of golf in 2010 was always going to be, The Twenty Ten. As the course designers, the entire company is going down to Celtic Manor to watch the Ryder Cup…………….it’s going to great! Come on Europe!!!

PGA National of Russia gets ready for grassing

It’s amazing what a few good weeks of weather can do. The previous visit was pretty much a damp squib, very similar to the conditions encountered during the whole of late May and early June, and construction progress was slow and very stop-start.

However, the middle of June has seemed like a defining date where glorious sunshine and unseasonably high temperatures have dried the site substantially and allowed for quick and quality progress to be made. So much so that the project is now ready to ‘sow its first seeds’!

The topsoil has been replaced on four holes and seedbed preparation is virtually complete on two of them. The irrigation system is up and running, sand is being spread in the bunkers and the heather has been planted around them. A few final tweaks to the seedbed prep and grassing will be ready to commence next week……. something we have all be striving towards.

Long may the good weather continue!

The short par 4, 10th Hole at the PGA National

These 'Boots' Are Made for Walkin……

It may have been a big hit for Frank Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy, but for those of you who have been to New York New York, with the wife or girlfriend, will fully appreciate the amount of ‘Walkin’ that takes place. The architecture, the museums, ‘Top of the Rock’, Central Park, the ‘Sex and the City’ tour (no comment), Statue of Liberty, Time Square (not last Saturday thankfully)……..and the shopping, the shopping, the shopping!!!
It’s a pulsating and energising place, but come the end of our five day stay in the Big Apple, both of us were very ready to put the ‘boots’ up.

The wife’s ‘boots’ were up for a bit longer than mine, as it was straight from Heathrow Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 to catch a connecting flight to Moscow for the first construction visit of year at the Zavidovo project.

Work has only recently recommenced on the PGA National Russia course and the site has come out of the winter well. Erosion has been minimal and it’s great to see that the course is draining pretty well. Conditions since the winter thaw have been favourable and in less than three days on site, we were able to approve shaping work and mark out grassing lines on five holes. Irrigation has also been staked on these holes so if all things go well we should have some seed in the ground in June.

A tiring, yet fun and rewarding nine days away from home, where the ‘walkin’ boots, were replaced by the ‘site’ boots, and upon return……….the ‘cricket’ boots!

  • Dave outside the Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • Construction underway on the 10th Hole at the PGA National Russia course.

From Russia with Love

Construction on the PGA National Golf Course at Zavidovo is only one month away from ‘shut-down’ for the Russian winter, but progress so far has been unbelievable. The weather so far has been kind, very kind, (only one day been lost to adverse weather), however to have rough shaped the entire course, built every water feature and installed all the solid drainage in a five, yes five month period, will be an outstanding achievement by all.

So, who are these ‘miracle’ workers?
The main Construction Contractor’s are a local firm called GeoKam. (This is actually their very first golf project.)
By trade, GeoKam actually specialise in marina and lake construction, so their technical expertise in these fields are proving extremely valuable, especially considering the numerous water features being created.
From a structural construction stand point, Russia, with its huge temperature variance, is proving a totally different challenge, but very educational nonetheless. Familiar construction techniques cannot be employed and the use of concrete is very minimal. However, what these technical construction methods are creating, is a golf course which will be synonymous, appropriate and in character with its Russian setting.

With GeoKam’s lack of GC construction experience, the client has brought in Braemar Golf to oversee the Construction Management of the project. Braemar Golf has put together an experienced team of project managers and shapers, and under their guidance and direction, the high quality of the work has been maintained even with the extremely restrictive construction window.

Work is progressing well, but in the words of the GeoKam Managing Director (via translation), ‘There is much more to do, we must be ‘hard’ with each other………and now is not the time for any celebration!’…………….Ok then!

  • Construction of the Timber lake walls
  • Shaping up of the 6th Hole
  • Me, Dave with one of the shapers (Scott Laughlin)

The Golf Course at King Abdullah Economic City

In the ‘developing’ Saudi Arabian Golf market, it is fundamental to create a golf course that is challenging, fair and enjoyable for golfers of all ability. It must ensure that golf holes have an alternate means of play and that the golfer is constantly confronted with different options and decisions as to how to play a particular hole with respect to their skill level of play.

Thus, the Golf Course at King Abdullah Economic City – Resort Cove will embrace the classic strategic elements of the world’s most enduring golf courses and bring them together in a layout filled with risk-and-reward choices and opportunities for creative and varied shot making.

The Golf Course is a par 72 layout with two loops of nine holes. Both nine hole loops start and finish at the centrally located Clubhouse. The course will be played from a Back Tee length of 6906 yards. Medal Tee, Regular Tee and Forward Tee positions would play from 6464 yards, 5960 yards and 5173 yards.

A feature element of the Golf Course development will be the Golf Course Academy, featuring a ‘state of the art’ teaching facility, accompanied by extensive fully-lit practice areas for the Long and Short Range Tees, Practice Fairway, and Putting, Chipping and Bunker green complexes.

The golf course design elements will be characterized by relatively gently undulating fairways and deep grass-faced style bunker hazards. A special landscape feature will be the design of large expansive waste bunkers and ‘wadi-like’ hazards that exhibit a ‘desert character’ on the golf course, reflecting the similar desert character of the Saudi Arabian landscape. The waste bunker and ‘wadi’ features have been designed to encroach into the fairway, and the interface between grass and desert will be detailed to give the utmost aesthetic appeal to the golfing landscape.

Water features on a golf course can provide the most dramatic moments in golf and are featured on both nine hole loops. There will be no ‘forced’ carries across water, but rather a heroic design intent, always providing an alternate route around the water hazard, but at a significant disadvantage or challenge for the next golf shot. The four prominent water features, constructed out of the most beautiful natural dark ‘volcanic’ rock, will be one of the ‘stand – out’ features of the golf course.

To further complement the natural beauty of the site’s magnificent setting on the Red Sea coast line, the landscape character across the golf course will be characterized by special areas of treatment. The Clubhouse and Academy will be characterized by a landscape setting rich in indigenous tree and shrub plantings similar to the surrounding built development. A desert landscape setting will be developed for the golf holes that feature the waste bunker hazards while golf holes with water features will provide an ‘oasis’ setting of relevant landscape plantings.

‘The Golf’ at the King Abdullah Economic City – Resort Cove will be exciting and challenging.

‘The Golf Course’ will be bold and beautiful.

But most importantly, for golfers of all abilities, ‘The Experience’ will be enjoyable and fun!

  • KAEC - Shaping of the par 4 - 6th hole
  • KAEC - The Client trying out the par 4 - 5th drive
  • KAEC - Views of the par 4 - 15th hole from the turning point marker. A spectacular setting with the Red Sea as the backdrop
  • KAEC - Construction of the par 4 - 5th hole. In the distance construction of the residential villas takes place

SA to SA in a Week

One week, I was ‘soaking’ up the sun, sea and sand in South Africa; the next I was ‘sweating it up’ in the sun, sea (well, sort of…….) and sand of Saudi Arabia.

After, what is turning out to be an annual pilgrimage back to South Africa for yet another wedding (not mine this time……..), it was back on a plane off to Saudi Arabia, to oversee the construction of the golf course at the King Abdullah City.

So what is King Abdullah City you ask?
Well, it’s so much more than just a property development on a massive scale. Located an hour north of Jeddah on the Red Sea coastline, the city has been Masterplanned as a modern, world-class metropolis, which will become one of the most important cities for Saudi Arabia, providing a permanent home for two million people.

The Golf Course is situated in the ‘Resort Cove’ and forms part of phase 1 of the overall construction schedule for the city.

After a particularly slow start to the Golf Course construction process (some major issues such as irrigation water, procurement of suitable materials…….etc, have had to be dealt with), work is beginning to gather some speed. Shaping is almost complete on Holes 4 and 8, and it is very pleasing to finally see the course starting to take shape…………….however, the only downside to work in Saudi Arabia is that the cool, refreshing, thirst quenching beer I had after a day in the South Africa sun building ‘sand castles’ on Camps Bay Beach, always seems a very long way away!

My Top 10 Courses

When asked to put together my Top 10 list of Golf Courses, my initial plan was to put together a list of the Top Ten courses, Played!

I quickly realised that unfortunately, unlike some of my fellow work colleagues who have been fortunate to have been brought up, or lived in, Scotland, ‘The Home of Golf’, comparatively I hadn’t played on that many great golf courses!

I would not like to put this entirely down to my South African roots, as there are some great golf courses in SA, (some of which are on the list, and helped generate my passion for the game) however, I feel that personally, it would be more appropriate for me to put together two lists: ‘Top 5 Golf Courses – Played’ and ‘Top 5 Golf Courses – Wanting to Play’

So here it is.

Top 5 Golf Courses – Played.

1. Turnberry Ailsa, Scotland.
Most probably the finest stretch of golf holes from 4 thru 11. (Definitely the finest I have ever played) It may have been a cold March morning when I played the course, but it didn’t matter, just loved it!

2. Humewood GC, South Africa.
Not at all on the list because it was a 2 minute drive from the University and cost only R20 (£1.30) a round!!! The finest links course in South Africa, great challenge especially when the wind blows – which it always does!

3. Sunningdale New, England.
Over the road from the office, and have been fortunate enough to play there a few times now. Some of the best green complexes around!

4. Portmarnock Links, Ireland.
No bias because it was designed by Stan, but it truly is a little gem on the outskirts of Dublin. (Also, not on the list cos Gary and I, gave Will and Alex a hiding!)

5. Gary Player Country Club – Sun City, South Africa.
Growing up in SA, watching the Million Dollar on tv (now, the Nedbank Challenge), this course was always the one you wanted to play. A tough and challenging course, which is always in fantastic condition.

Top 5 Golf Course – Wanting to Play, ‘The Wish List’.

1. Augusta National, America.
Name me a golfer who doesn’t? Would be happy just to visit, but to play it would be something else.

2. St Andrews, Scotland.
A close second to Augusta, definitely on the ‘hit list’ for the coming year.

3. Cypress Point, America.
‘Have you seen the pictures?’ enough said!

4. Royal Melbourne West, Australia.
No list would be complete without a trip to Aus to play on beauty. Love the bunkers!

5. Durban Country Club, South Africa.
A dark horse on this list, but for all the times I went on holiday to Durban, never got the opportunity to play on this world renowned course, still want to!